Justin Hartley's 'Tracker': A Familiar Procedural with a Twist

Justin Hartley's 'Tracker': A Familiar Procedural with a Twist

Justin Hartley, renowned for his role in "This Is Us," ventures into a new television series, "Tracker," airing on CBS. In this procedural drama, Hartley plays Colter Shaw, a lone-wolf survivalist with a knack for solving mysteries. While the show doesn't break new ground in the genre, it promises a familiar formula with a twist.

The series, based on Jeffery Deaver's bestselling novel "The Never Game," follows Colter as he traverses the country, towing his Airstream trailer behind his pickup truck. A self-proclaimed "rewardist" or essentially a bounty hunter, Colter takes on cases to track down people and objects for a fee. Each episode unveils a new mystery, delving into Colter's expert training to unearth overlooked clues.

The pilot episode, "Klamath Falls," kicks off with a post-Super Bowl premiere on CBS. Colter embarks on a $20,000 mission to find a missing 14-year-old boy, contacted by his estranged birth father. The episode meticulously showcases Colter's attention to detail, proficiency in weaponry, and extensive survival knowledge. However, when the show shifts away from the core investigations, the stilted dialogue among characters hinders viewer connection to the narrative.

Unlike other long-running procedural dramas with expansive casts and intricate storylines, "Tracker" opts for a more modest approach. Colter's team includes his wife and wife duo, Velma and Teddi Bruin, working from home to dig up cases. Bobby Exley, a double amputee with hacking skills, and attorney Reenie Greene complete the essential team. The challenge arises as these characters are scattered across different locations, making the show's cohesion an ongoing struggle.

"Tracker" functions adequately as a procedural drama. While the series opener may not be riveting, the second episode, "Springland," showcases Colter tracking down a missing woman in a resort town. The palpable hostility from the community adds an intriguing layer. The revelation of the truth behind the woman's disappearance provides a genuinely surprising twist. Such episodes highlight the potential of the show to captivate viewers, but consistency in delivering engaging chapters remains a challenge.

The most compelling aspect of "Tracker" lies not in its procedural investigations but in Colter's traumatic childhood, depicted in the pilot. Raised off the grid by a father grappling with mental illness and paranoia, Colter's upbringing holds a gripping narrative that deserves a closer look. An incident during one of his father's outbursts changed the Shaw family forever, leaving a lasting impact on Colter. Yet, the recluse that he is, Colter avoids confronting his past or unpacking the trauma surrounding it.

Overall, "Tracker" fits the mold of a network drama but lacks the standout quality. Without Justin Hartley's star power, it risks being forgettable, especially considering Colter Shaw lacks the charisma of Hartley's well-known character, Kevin Pearson. Despite knife fights, shootouts, and perilous encounters, the show doesn't offer anything groundbreaking in an already crowded television landscape. While easy to dip into, "Tracker" lacks a consistent core case, making it just as simple to step away and turn to long-running series with cult followings or other procedural rookies that have mastered the art of twists and spotlight charismatic leads.

The premiere of "Tracker" is set for February 11 on CBS after the Super Bowl, with subsequent episodes airing weekly on Sundays. As viewers anticipate Hartley's transition from the emotionally charged world of "This Is Us" to the procedural realm, the question remains: Can "Tracker" carve its niche in a television landscape saturated with similar offerings? Only time will tell if Colter Shaw's adventures will capture the audience's attention beyond the initial curiosity sparked by Hartley's involvement.

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